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Latvala: Rovanpera Portugal WRC victory reminiscent of a dominant Sebastien Ogier

Autosport logo Autosport 22/5/2022 Tom Howard

Rovanpera produced a masterclass display on Portugal’s tricky gravel stages to claim a fifth career WRC win and his third consecutive triumph following success on snow in Sweden and Croatia’s tarmac stages.

Expectations of victory were tempered heading into Portugal given the Finn faced the tough task of opening the dusty gravel roads on Friday virtue of being the championship leader.

However, the 21-year-old coped admirably as road sweeper ending Friday second overall 13.6s behind Toyota team-mate Elfyn Evans.

Rovanpera was then able to hunt down Evans on Saturday before going on to record 15.2s victory on Sunday, including a final power stage win to claim a perfect 30 points from the weekend.

This is the second event in succession where Rovanpera has won being first on the road, which prompted Latvala to compare his young driver to Ogier, a proven master at road sweeping during his run to eight world titles.

Ironically this weekend ultimately proved a difficult weekend for Ogier on his WRC return with Toyota, after a double puncture on Friday and an uncharacteristic crash on Saturday.

“Once again he [Kalle] has surprised us because we didn’t expect him to win, as he was first car on the road, but he did it,” Latvala told Autosport.

“Elfyn was driving really well fighting for the victory and putting the pressure on Kalle, but this time Kalle found more performance.

"It [Kalle’s victory in Portugal] reminds me of the dominance of Sebastien Ogier back in the 2013 when he was driving the Volkswagen for the first time [when he won his first title].

Kalle Rovanperä, Jonne Halttunen, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 © Autosport.com Kalle Rovanperä, Jonne Halttunen, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Kalle Rovanperä, Jonne Halttunen, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Photo by: Toyota Racing

“He was putting all the other drivers under pressure and Kalle has now done the same and it very difficult when a driver is in what I call the flow zone. It is very difficult for the others to beat him and he has found that.

“For Kalle all of the things are clicking together he stays calm and doesn’t take too much pressure and the car is suiting him really well.

“What I see in Kalle, is there is nobody in history at his age that has done this,” Latvala added.

“We know that we had great drivers in the past, Sebastien Loeb, Sebastien Ogier and they were good drivers and can win rallies by opening the road. But nobody has done it the age where Kalle is now. We haven’t seen that in rally history.”

Responding to Latvala’s comments, Rovanpera told Autosport: “Of course it is a good thing to know you can do this because that is something you need to fight for a championship.

"Of course it [being compared to Ogier] means something, it is nice but we still have a long way to have the same achievements as him.

“I have really good feelings [about this win]. I am bit surprised also as I didn’t really think when we started the rally we could do something like this.”

This latest success has left Latvala to suggest that Rovanpera, who leads the championship by 46 points from Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville, has all the “elements” required to become a world champion.

“Kalle has grown up now really quickly and he has shown and proven that he has all the elements to become a world champion," Latvala said. “He is on the right path but for sure there are many races and many more points to be scored before you are there.”

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